Opuntia plants nutritive and medicinal value: a review


  • Domenico Prisa CREA Research Centre for Vegetable and Ornamental Crops, Via Dei Fiori 8, 51012 Pescia, Italy




antimicrobial activities, cactus, medicinal fruits, Opuntia, sustainable agriculture, therapeutic uses


The scientific name Opuntia identifies a succulent plant native to Mexico. It is now widespread in the United States, South America and the Mediterranean basin, where it has found a suitable terrain for naturalization. It is a species of cactus popularly known as Nopal in Mexico and “Fico d’India” in Italy. Cladodes, the branched leaves of the plant, are paddle shaped and covered in short spines that enable it to absorb even the tiniest drop of water. A specific and well known type of Opuntia, called Opuntia ficus-indica, can be recognized by its typical yellow flowers and is appreciated for its fleshy fruit with a pleasant taste, rich in nutrients but low in calories. It is used as a foodstuff and in particular to produce juices, jellies and other edible products. The O. ficus-indica is also well known as a source of vitamins, especially vitamin C, calcium and phosphorus and in smaller quantities of other minerals and various essential nutrients, including antioxidants. The cladodes are the part of the plant from which the extract is used to aid weight control and as a cosmetic ingredient with an emollient and soothing action. The spongy tissues of the cladodes contain high concentrations of high molecular weight polysaccharides, which are relevant for the specific properties commonly attributed to this common succulent plant. This review presents several medicinal benefits, which can be obtained using cladodes, fruits and flowers of the different Opuntia species.


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How to Cite

Domenico Prisa. (2023). Opuntia plants nutritive and medicinal value: a review. Journal of Current Science and Technology, 13(2), 486–499. https://doi.org/10.59796/jcst.V13N2.2023.1762



Review Article